Chlorophyll Water Can Trigger Pseudoporphyria, Expert Warns

Doug Brunk

August 30, 2022

PORTLAND, ORE. – If a child presents with pseudoporphyria – a bullous photodermatosis with the clinical and histological features of porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) but with normal porphyrins – chlorophyll water could be the culprit.

Commercially available, green pigment–infused chlorophyll water is marketed with claims that it supports cancer prevention and digestive health, facilitates weight loss, and improves skin complexion. "It also absorbs light, so lo and behold, if your patient is photosensitive, they might get pseudoporphyria," Robert Sidbury, MD, MPH, chief of the division of dermatology at Seattle Children's Hospital, said at the annual meeting of the Pacific Dermatologic Association.

This was one of the clinical pearls he shared during his presentation.

Sidbury added that the risk of photosensitivity increases in children who are taking other medications such as doxycycline, methotrexate, or even naproxen. At least two cases of pseudoporphyria following self-medication with chlorophyll have been described in the dermatology literature.

Is it SSSS or SJS?

Another clinical pearl that Sidbury shared at the meeting related to staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS), which causes reddening and blistering of the skin that makes it appear scalded or burned. To rule out Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) in a child who presents with such skin manifestations, he routinely performs the unscientific lollipop test, which he learned from Bernard A. "Buddy" Cohen, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

"If they eat it, it's Staph scalded skin," said Sidbury, who is also professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, Seattle. "If they don't, it's likely SJS. It's not the most specific test, but it's easy to do, because there's no mucous membrane involvement in Staph scalded skin."

In a poster presented during the 2022 annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology, Sarah Cipriano, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, retrospectively study 85 patients aged younger than 18 years diagnosed with SSSS between Jan. 1, 2010, and Aug. 21, 2021. They found that ancillary blood cultures and CSF cultures did not improve diagnostic precision in SSSS patients.

"They don't add anything unless there's an indication beyond the Staph scalded skin," said Sidbury, who was not involved in the study. "The researchers also found that clindamycin does not improve outcomes in these patients, so avoid using it." Instead, a first-generation cephalosporin is indicated, and an alternate diagnosis should be considered if the patient does not improve within 48 hours.

Sidbury disclosed that he has conducted research for Regeneron, Galderma, and UCB. He is also an adviser for Leo Pharmaceuticals and a speaker for Biersdorf.

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